5 For Thought: Rangers finally home, Leafs sell high, realignment so far, Ruff’s return, and more.

1. Vanek excited to join young, fast Islanders.

Thomas Vanek with the Buffalo Sabres. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Thomas Vanek with the Buffalo Sabres. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Thomas Vanek has spent the entire first eight seasons of his NHL career with the Buffalo Sabres. His early days were blessed with team success, including a Presidents’ trophy and some promising playoff runs. However, the Sabres mid 2000’s glory days did not last long. Over the last several seasons they’ve become more of an after-thought than a credible Stanley Cup contender.

Last season’s poor start was the final straw in Buffalo, and they’ve worked at rebuilding ever since. Vanek is twenty-nine years old, thus, it was time for him to move on and explore a more prosperous situation – one in which he will still be in his prime while challenging for a Stanley Cup. The Islanders’ status as a Cup contender is still questionable, but they are closer than the Sabres.

Daniel Friedman of WFAN/CBS Sports tweeted the following about Vanek’s excitement to join the Islanders early in the 2013-14 NHL season:

 

 

Vanek joins an Islanders team with Michael Grabner, native of Villach, Austria. According to NHL.com, Vanek and Grabner represent 2/3 of the league’s Austrians. The third being Michael Raffl of the Philadelphia Flyers.

 

Islanders general manager Garth Snow talks about the Vanek/Moulson trade at his press conference with Islanders TV:

 

 

2. Rangers home opener tonight against Canadiens.

Rick Nash

Rangers sniper Rick Nash. Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Tonight marks the New York Rangers’ tenth game of the season, and only their first on home ice. Renovations at Madison Square Garden forced the Blueshirts to start this season on a lengthy road trip. Unfortunately, they did not have much success away from home, putting themselves in an unfavourable position in the standings after nearly one month of hockey.

The Rangers sit tied for last place in the Metropolitan Division with 6 points earned through 9 contests. It looks like things are about to get better for New York. They return home, where they posted an impressive 16-6-2 record last season.

Scoring has been a big problem this season. The Rangers 15 tallies through 9 games played is the lowest in the league. At the moment, their goal differential is a league low (-18).

The first ten games of the season are often unorganized for an NHL club with a brand new head coach; the dreadful start may not be an accurate depiction of the real New York Rangers. They need to turn this ship around immediately though, because they’re already 5 points out of the playoffs. While 5 doesn’t seem like a lot, it can be nearly impossible a deficit to recover from.

Elliott Friedman of CBC recently blogged that only three NHL teams have recovered from more than 4 points out of the playoffs by November 1st since the league started awarding 1 point to teams that lose in a shootout. Read Friedman’s article here.

The Montreal Canadiens provide the Rangers with their first home test of the season. The Habs are good on the road so far this season, winning 3 of a possible 4. Carey Price is playing superb hockey, always providing his team a great chance to win, regardless the arena.

The loss of Rick Nash has hurt the Rangers offensively. Nash had 21 goals in 44 games last season. His production is irreplaceable from within the organization. However, in the short term, the Rangers will need to find a way or else their 5 point deficit will become greater and their chances of qualifying for the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs will be borderline impossible.

3. Surprise surprise, Toronto Maple Leafs lead league in highest ticket prices.

On October 13th, Forbes published an article revealing the highest ticket prices in the NHL, and to no surprise, the league’s most valued franchise is leading the way with an average ticket price of $368.60. View full article here, courtesy of Forbes.com.

The Forbes article declares the San Jose Sharks the most expensive average seat price of the California based hockey teams at an average of $150 per ticket.

4. The good and bad from the NHL’s new divisions.

After almost a month of hockey the NHL’s new divisions are starting to provide insight as to which will be strong and which will be struggling to produce a wild card team.

As of right now, the Pacific Division is the most impressive with 6 of 7 teams playing over 0.500 hockey. Only the Edmonton Oilers have a losing record in the Pacific.

The Central, thought to be the weakest division entering the 2013-14 NHL season, is not looking bad at the moment. Currently, 5 of 7 Central teams are above 0.500. The emergence of the Colorado Avalanche and strong play of the defensively sound Nashville Predators has thrown a wrench into the preconceived notion that the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, and Minnesota Wild would finish top three with ease.

In the Eastern Conference, the Atlantic is the cream of the crop so far. 5 of 7 teams in the Atlantic have a winning record, whereas, the 6th place Ottawa Senators (4-5-2) have as many points as the wild card candidates from the Metropolitan Division, with 10.

The Metropolitan Division is by far the league’s most unimpressive after four weeks of hockey. Only the Pittsburgh Penguins are above 0.500 in the Metro. The Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders occupy playoff spots, meanwhile, they would be tied for 6th if they were in the Atlantic. At the moment, it looks like both Eastern Conference wild card teams may come from the Atlantic Division unless the Metropolitan’s slow starters can pick up their play and start winning.

Because the season is so young with much left to be determined, the door is wide open for a variety of slow starting teams to get hot and achieve success. The Washington Capitals played an impressive 15-2-2 over their last 19 games a season ago. If they can relocate their winning ways soon the opportunity exists for them to pass the inconsistent competition in their division.

In the tightly contested divisions the next month of hockey will better reveal which clubs are serious playoff threats and which are off to unsustainable great starts.

5. Lindy Ruff returns to Buffalo

Lindy Ruff at the 2006 NHL Awards. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Lindy Ruff at the 2006 NHL Awards. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Tonight’s game between the Buffalo Sabres and Dallas Stars will be the most significant meeting between the two organizations since they played each other in the 1999 Stanley Cup final. Lindy Ruff makes his return to Buffalo behind the bench of the team that destroyed the Sabres closest chance at winning a Cup.

Ruff coached 14 seasons with the Sabres. In today’s era, head coaches rarely last more than five years, making Ruff’s tenure in Buffalo worthy of admiration. He won 571 games behind the Sabres’ bench.

The Buffalo Sabres are 2-10-1 to start the season. Meanwhile, Ruff’s Stars are 4-5-1, good enough for last place in the Central.

Ruff won the Jack Adams award as best coach in the NHL back in 2006 with the Sabres.